Report into death of patient sent to staff

A DRAFT report into the death of a 75-year-old patient at a north Cork hospital has been completed by an independent investigation team.

In reply to a Dáil question, Minister for State at the Department of Health Áine Brady told Sean Sherlock TD the draft report was being circulated “for due process” to staff who were on duty at Heatherside Hospital, near Doneraile, on the night Ms Comber died to afford them an opportunity to comment.

“The (investigating) committee will consider such comments prior to submitting its report to the HSE.. This process is now expected to be concluded and the report submitted to the HSE by mid-June 2009. The question of its dissemination will then be a matter for the HSE,” said the minister.

Ms Comber was diagnosed as schizophrenic. On the night in question in June 2006 she was described by staff as restless and was moved from her own bed to a day room where she was put in a chair.

A restraining belt had been put around the woman and it is believed that, when she fell asleep, she slipped down the chair and her neck was compressed by the buckle of the belt.

An inquest heard that as a result she died of asphyxia.

The inquest recorded a verdict of misadventure after hearing coroner Dr Michael Kennedy say there was no written policy in the hospital on the use of restraint chairs or for dealing with a sudden death.

Dr Kennedy said he would be contacting hospital management with recommendations to prevent such tragedies reoccurring.

The DPP decided no charges would follow Ms Comber’s death.

The independent investigation has taken nearly three years to complete.

The HSE has previously promised to publish a report on the circumstances surrounding Ms Comber’s death “in the interests of her family, public confidence in their services, as well as openness and transparency”.

However, Mr Sherlock said he would be asking further Dáil questions to ensure the report was made public.

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence


Have the Irish Examiner delivered to your door. No delivery charge. Just pay the cover price.